The last time I saw Firewind was give or take a couple of days, six years ago. That night, in Wolverhampton, was magnificent. And in conclusion, I wrote simply: “Firewind are kings”. To be truthful, I was not aware they were opening this gig until the night before the show. See, in my head perhaps Gus G and his gang (now with Herbie Langhans of Avantasia and Voodoo Circle on vocals) are playing arenas, somewhere, not standing on a stage in the second city talking about “getting in front of new audiences who might not know us”. But this is the real world and if that is what G is aiming to do, then my goodness, this is a 45 minute introduction that the packed crowd won’t forget. “Welcome To The Empire” perhaps presciently, opens the show. That one is from the latest record, released in 2020, but they are here to showcase their careers. “Ode To Leonidis”, from the “Immortals” album (the one they were touring on the last viewing) is still a highlight, but there’s a moment where Gus G plays his solo on “The Fire And The Fury” and all the talent of not just the guitarist, but the entire band spills forth. Confident enough to play a new song “Destiny Is Calling”, there is a real sense of enjoyment with the group these days, nowhere is this better shown than on the cover of “Maniac” – the 80s synth track is given a real makeover here and Firewind own it, by the end in fact, Firewind seem to own the venue. They are still as good as ever, and if they need a kickstart let’s hope that this run provides it.

Billy Idol’s “Shock To The System” is playing. That’s cool and all, but it doesn’t hold the attention. You see, something has happened at the back of the stage. A roadie has appeared and revealed huge two topless cartoon figures , similar to the album cover on Beast In Black’s “Dark Connection” record. While this is occurring the 500 or so people crammed into the Institute’s downstairs room are chanting the bands name.

They’ve made it, ladies and gents. And for 90 minutes Anton Kabanen and the chaps essentially enjoy a victory lap.

Anyone who cares knows the story by now, Kabanen walked out of Battle Beast to do this in 2015, but it’s the what “this” is that is so damn interesting. Singer Yannis Papadopoulos exudes star quality in his leather trench coat, and more than once he says that “Birmingham is the home of heavy metal”. This sound, though belongs to a little bit further North West, in Walsall and Wolverhampton where Judas Priest formed. The twin guitar solo on “Blade Runner” – the opening song – the screamed vocals on the wonderful “Revengence Machine”, they are pure Priest.

The thing is, though, that it is not British Steel powering this, but a beating Euro heart, and every so often they chuck a disco number in, “Unlimited Sin” for one, but its all natural and never, ever forced.

BiB are brilliant at what they do. There’s three songs right in the middle of this that sum them up. “Moonlight Rendezvous” is a masterclass, “Crazy Mad, Insane” has someone dressed as if they are in Jack Nicholson’s ward in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” playing Keytar and “Sweet True Lies” is pure, catchy pop. BiB have no inhibitions and neither should you, just forget what you should do, and do what you like.

“Oceandeep” is the evening’s one ballad, and sees the room lit by phone torches, before a hurtle to the finish that includes their eponymous anthem, “Hardcore” and “Blind And Frozen”. Everything about them says they weren’t going to shuffle off, though and the encore explodes. There’s a soaring “Cry For A Hero”, a thunderous slice of fun in “One Night In Tokyo” before “End Of The World” does, well, end it. For now.

And you say “for now” because, in October 2019 when watching them as special guests to Gloryhammer, I proclaimed Beast In Black,  to be “like rock stars. Like arena stars.” And I added: “As easy as it would be to snipe at this, look at the people watching. There’s a joy you cannot fake.”

That all applies here too, only even more so. They are already at the next level. The tour is sold out, they are on top of their game. This was an arena gig in a club. Who knows where this will end? Beast In Black certainly appear ready to step up again.

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